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Norwich Offers UK's Largest Free Wi-Fi
By: MarkJ - 02 August, 2006 (8:50 AM)

Norwich has become home to the UK's largest free community wireless (Wi-Fi) network, 'Norfolk Open Link' (NOL). The Hotzone was originally meant to provide free broadband for local businesses, but later expanded to cover the general public too!:

The central network covers most of Norwich city centre to a 4km radius around County Hall as well as local universities, hospitals and business parks.

Rural areas are being provided with free hotspots and "sort of mesh" networks, Frary said. Central zones have gained a full mesh network, whereby hundreds of nodes (fixed to lamp posts) simultaneously provide Wi-Fi access to passers-by and communicate with each other to pass information to and from the main Internet connection.

This connection is perched on top of the County Hall, and uses a "pre-WiMax" 5.8GHz connection for backhaul, the connectivity between the local network and the main IP networks.

Presently the scheme is still in the pilot stage, offering council employees and businesses that give full feedback on their usage a speed of up to 1Mbps. Meanwhile separate businesses and individuals will be capped at 256Kbps.

We should also point out that there is a MAXIMUM session limit of just 1 hour, although it is unclear whether or not you can reconnect after this period has expired.

It may not be exceptionally fast and is quite slow by comparison to modern broadband products, yet the fact that the service is truly free more than makes up for that. Still, we're curious as to how the service will be funded longer-term, especially if it becomes "too" popular. More @ ZDNet.

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